By Amanda Hu
In addition to her job as the Gauntlet‘s sports editor, Amanda Hu listens to more music than she would like to think about. These are the albums she listened to that she thought were a cut above over the past year.
1. Of Montreal–Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?, Of Montreal’s musical trip to hedonism and back, is arguably one of the most entertaining and catchy products of separation to be created. The album details frontman Kevin Barnes’ eventual breakdown, culminating in the 11:53 long “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal,” and then his transformation into a self-gratifying machine through cheeky weaving and wavering into and out of poppy pseudo-psychedelic tracks with Barnes’ electronically layered voice floating on top. Hissing Fauna is full of lyrical artistry and dramatically varied audio-orgasmic elements that set it apart of the crowd. While this album may be an acquired taste, it’s one that becomes positively addictive.
2. Sunset Rubdown–Random Spirit Lover
Sunset Rubdown has been running under the radar for most of their career. Though originally a solo project of the well-known Spencer Krug, Krug’s involvement with Wolf Parade mostly always took the spotlight. With Random Spirit Lover, the band made a very noticeable and well-deserved splash. Spirit Lover segues from one track to another making for powerfully varied yet cohesive album. Melding pounding piano power chords, Krug’s pained and emotionally dripping voice, dynamic contrasts ranging from small and dainty to bombastic, the album has the perfect push and pull with itself, giving the listener another dose of bells and whispers before smashing back into group vocals, screaming guitar and cymbal-crazy drums.
3. Animal Collective–Strawberry Jam
Strawberry Jam is Animal Collective’s most melodic and accessible album to date. Jam sees the band take their signature unconventional song structure and layered distorted elements and refine them to create a new meld of vocals and ambient sounds and frantic beats. Avey Tare outdoes himself with Jam‘s lyrical finesse and his ability to invoke variably different musical feels through his laments and screams. Tracks like “Fireworks” greatly demonstrate the Collective’s diversity as it seems to bounce along through a swung but subdivided groove driven by triplets and piano, with cymbal hits punctuating the underlying feel.
4. Spoon–Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Spoon’s highly anticipated Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga didn’t let its listeners down. The indie darlings, led by their boyishly-charming frontman Britt Daniels, created a versatile album that incorporates poppy tambourine-filled tracks with piano-driven moments and stumbling, deep grooves. Throughout it all, scrappy guitar interjects, keeping the album fresh and flowing. “The Ghost of You Lingers” features a slightly different feel, as Daniels’ voice sings over itself with eerie distortion and choppy piano chords clunk constantly in the background. Ga Ga is a fun, yet well-structured album, making for danceable tracks and a musically diverse offering.
5. The National–Boxer
The National’s 2007 offering, Boxer, is a refreshing 43-minute trip through mild melancholy. Matt Berninger’s deep voice makes for an uncommon, low feel to the band’s music while tom-heavy, deep-sounding drum beats drive and push Boxer’s songs. The album avoids any danger of plodding through itself by using percussive elements like piano, tambourine and the occasional distorted guitar riff. With high-profile contributions from guest artists like Sufjan Stevens–on the tracks “Racing Like A Pro” and “Ada”–add to the album’s musical versatility, while still using the slightly down overarching feel. Overall, Boxer is depressing, but in a good way.
The Best of The Rest
6. Miracle Fortress–Five Roses
7. Panda Bear–Person Pitch
8. Beirut–The Flying Club Cup
9. Frog Eyes–Tears of the Valedictorian